Those who know me will have heard me say, “I don’t say yes if I don’t want to do it.” Those who worry about burdening me or asking too much of me are reassured, “Trust me to look after myself. I won’t say yes if it’s not ok for me.”
Most of the time this is true for me. I love being able to say no if something doesn’t suit me and yes when it does. It’s such a liberating thing to be able to do. This didn’t come naturally to me, I’m a people-pleaser by nature. It gives me great joy to see others happy so I’ve had to do some serious internal renovations to get to this place. It helps me to know that if I falsely agree to something when inside I’m reluctant, neither I nor they will be happy in the long run and it will damage our relationship. So it actually fits into my ethos of bringing happiness to others if I say no to them when what they desire from me doesn’t feel good to me.
In my Reiki courses I teach about this give-take balance because when you do healing for other people it’s vital to keep yourself balanced and healthy by enjoying what you do. If you don’t look after yourself in this fundamental way, everybody loses. So in my courses when we discuss it I teach people to watch out for the feeling of reluctance or resentment. Those are alarms bells, flashing red warning lights that you are giving more than you feel you are receiving. If you feel reluctant or resentful when somebody wants something from you, KNOW that you are not feeling like they are appreciating it, respecting it, giving back what they owe you, reciprocating in equal measure… Pay attention to it. Honour it. If you say yes at those moments it is as good as throwing the relationship into the garbage. If, however, you set your boundaries in whatever way honours both you and them in that moment, your relationship will jump to the next level of goodness.
Oh, and there is the small added benefit that you will feel looked after, important, worthy and safe in the world.
This is all well and good but most of us were not taught and shown that it is ok to look after ourselves in this way. On the contrary we were often urged to put others first, give rather than take, not ask for what we need, say yes to be polite, not hurt other people’s feelings, and on and on.
Ugh. Lies, all lies!
This stuff is deeply ingrained in me too so parenting, for example, has been a massive challenge. I find keeping the balance of give and take phenomenally difficult with my children. I think this is true for many of us parents. I feel love and I give but then they take and take and take and I want to scream but there they still are with their needs and demands and society tells me a good mother gives and gives and gives… but it’s gone way over my boundaries and I feel very unsafe so I lose it in some way to make it stop and then I feel guilt and shame. That’s no good!
This is proof that this model doesn’t work. But it seems only when we reach our breaking points that we let ourselves see or acknowledge that something is out of balance. When we feel good and strong we overlook ourselves quite easily – which is one reason I think many people who are people-pleasers are attached to being depressed or having low energy – it’s the only societally-approved way they have found to say no to other people’s needs.
My alarm bells of give-take imbalance are sounding at the moment. I’ve been giving abundantly of myself from my abundance. I joyfully gave and gave and gave and I gained plenty in return – but apparently not in equal measure. I know this because feelings of reluctance and resentment have surfaced, bless them. I thank them for their message. Now I need to withdraw, take stock and assess my giving habits. What do I give, when do I give it, why do I give it, if I truly loved myself what would I choose to give…?
How is your give-take balance at the moment?